Wednesday, 5 August 2009

How to Cook: Cheese and Pickled Onion Hedgehog

Today is Neil Armstrong’s 79th birthday. No doubt Mr I-Don’t-Want-To-Talk-To-You will be celebrating on his own in a dark room with a sensible dinner covering all the food groups and a pleasant cup of cocoa before bed.

This is a shame. If Neil was my friend I would have organised a surprise party for him with all manner of frivolous and exciting treats from my culinary repertoire and maybe even a cake with a picture of the moon on it. However, in the hope that Neil’s friends and family might be reading this and thinking of knocking him up something nice as a surprise I’ve prepared another recipe showcasing more of the best of British cooking.

Hérisson au Fromage et Oignon au Vinaigre
(Cheese and Pickled Onion Hedgehog)

· 400g of mature cheddar cheese (not so mature as to be crumbly)
· 1 small jar of silverskin pickled onions
· 1 large raw potato (washed)
· A pack of cocktail sticks
· Aluminium Foil (Optional - depending on whether you’re making it for an astronaut)

Step 1: Chop cheese into something approximating 2cm cubes. Cheese fiends who ignored my earlier advice about buying cheese that’s too mature will have to stop at this point, eat the crumbly pile of cheese you’ve just created and then go back to the shop to buy something a bit more robust. Everyone else can move to stage two.

Step 2: Take your potato and, with care and respect for its potatoey ways, chop its little bottom off. This will convert your spud from a Weeble into a solid foundation for your art sculpture/ cheesy-oniony comestible.

Step 3: Skewering Time! Yes, you and your cocktail sticks are an improbable golden spaceship driven by Flash Gordon, whilst the cheese and pickled onions are the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless – stabbed right through the middle with a maniacal laugh. Repeat until the Earth is saved or all the onions are gone.

Step 4: the tricky bit. Starting at one end of the spud (so you don’t run out of room) take your cheese and onion-laden poles and push the pointy bit into the potato. This is harder than it looks if your cocktail sticks are pointy at both ends so practice beforehand on a fake potato (perhaps an apple painted brown). Keep on stabbing like Dexter until your potato is covered.

Step 5: Create a surrounding moat with any additional pieces of cheese that you haven’t eaten, then carefully place your completed masterpiece on the party table. Stand back and wait for applause.

Optional Stage for friends or family of noted astronauts: For extra showbiz pizzazz why not pre-wrap you potato in aluminium foil? Not only will it evoke memories of space exploration but you can chuck it on the fire after use and enjoy a nice baked potato long after your guests have gone. (Note too-mature crumbly cheese in this picture and learn from my shame...)

Anyway, happy birthday Mr Armstrong. Enjoy your cocoa, sir.

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